In Memorium: Patrick Murphy Ruiz, Chiapas Humanist + Guide

Patrick Murphy Ruiz has died. He was a young man, born in 1967, just a tad over age 50. Close in age to my son. A friend told me he had a heart attack celebrating with family on St. Patrick’s Day.

Patrick Murphy Ruiz was an extraordinary individual who I met eight years ago in San Cristobal de Las Casas when I brought a group and needed a cultural guide. I have worked with him each year since.

Patrick Murphy Ruiz, with Esperanza in Amantenango del Valle

I want to pay tribute to the man we just said goodbye to, literally, as our 2019 Chiapas tour ended on March 7. Our last day with Patrick was on Sunday, March 3. On March 5, Patrick had a surgery in Tuxtla Gutierrez to remove varicose veins. I checked in with him via WhatsApp on March 7 to see how he was doing post-operation.

Thank you, Norma. I’m doing fine. I’m recovering and resting.

It took 40 minutes for an ambulance to get to his house after his family made the call.

Patrick Murphy Ruiz with Maria Meza Giron, Tenejapa

What I want to talk about is Patrick Murphy Ruiz, the compassionate nephew of Bishop Samuel Ruiz, who continued the family commitment to defend and support the indigenous Maya people of Chiapas.

Patrick was a story-teller, a historian, a cultural and political interpreter, with deep knowledge about his country, Mexico and his state, Chiapas. He was so much more than a patient tour guide. He was sensitive to the nuances of life and the needs of others. He embraced people, was helpful and concerned. He was generous of self. Calm and empathetic, filled with energy and inquisitiveness. A source. A resource.

We learned so much from him. We learned the political nuances about the Zapatista movement. We understood the Maya Day of the Dead rituals and spiritual path. We gained a deeper respect for the mystical traditions in the San Juan Chamula church.

Ancient Maya cemetery, Romerillo

I can still feel him sitting next to me on a bench inside this church with no pews, the floor strewn with pine-needles, copal incense clouding the air with smoke and aroma. We are both deep in meditation at the moment. The quiet moments are to be cherished. I will always remember this.

I remember him standing tall under the tall Maya crosses at the Romerillo cemetery. He was like the ancient Cieba tree, strong, an anchor, in perfect symmetry. I hear him explaining the thousands of years of history here, the traditions of burial, the syncretism of the Maya and European cross, why the boards cover the graves and are moved aside to allow the spirits passage from the underworld to visit loved ones for a day. The layers of existence and co-existence and existential thought and respect. Patrick Murphy Ruiz could communicate it all.

Patrick explains Xibalba, the Maya concept of afterlife

I loved Patrick as much as I relied on him. Everyone in our groups felt the same way.

If you read this and knew Patrick, please take a moment to share your own memory in the comments section. Take a moment to say a prayer, light a candle, send Patrick’s spirit out into the world to populate his goodness. His life enriched ours.

62 responses to “In Memorium: Patrick Murphy Ruiz, Chiapas Humanist + Guide

  1. Anna Schmid-Stampfer Stampfer

    Dear Roberto, only today I came to know that your dear brother Patricio passed away. I want to express my deep sorrow to You and the whole Family. I got to know your Family in Summer 1982….in Simojovel. I was with a group of German Young people who helped to raise the planada. In those two Weeks when WE stayed in Simojovel I experienced how deeply Patricio and you were bound to the people who lived there. All those years I kept you in my heart and never forgot the time in Chiapas. I want to express my deepest sympathy. Anna

    • Dear Anna, thank you for sending condolences to Roberto and family. I don’t know if he will read what you wrote. I will try to find his email address to send to you so you can write directly. We miss Patrick. Un abrazo, Norma

  2. He was a beautiful person and I feel so honored to have had him as a guide last year.

  3. I am devastated by this sad news. Such a loss for all who knew Patricio and had the wonderful & extraordinary experience of having him as a guide.
    As a tour organizer I was new to Chiapas when I first came to meet him. A towering presence, always with his hat, I knew I was in good hands.He was such a help to me, and the trips I offered over the years were always enriched by his storytelling, expert knowledge and the passionate love he had for the indigenous people and Chiapas. He told of his uncle –the Bishop Ruiz– who took him into the villages as a child and talked to him about their struggles. Patricio never forgot them; he was a compassionate advocate of the people. A calm and empathetic man filled with energy and life.
    He will be sorely missed…

    • Hi, Jean. I’m touched by your memory of Patrick, which I share. He is frequently “with me” as I think of him often. I see him when I go through my photos, which is nearly daily. The shock of his loss is still with us. We experienced him as you describe. Thank you for mourning along with so many who knew and trusted him.

  4. Thank you for sending this sad news, Norma. Your tour of Chiapas in 2018 was a joy and Patrick was a big part of that. He had the knowledge of an academic who had studied intensely but, in addition, had a passionate and emotional understanding of Chiapas. He was also a gentleman. I hope his family and friends will find comfort in the days ahead.

    • Nancy, such a tragedy and loss for so many of us. As you say so well, Patrick touched us and we learned from him. He was a large man who was to down to earth and tender-hearted. His loss will be felt for a long time. Thank you for writing with this tribute. Norma

  5. Thank you for sending along this sad news, Norma. Patrick was beyond a tour guide. Although the depth and breadth of his knowledge was much more like that of a sensitive and extremely well informed academic, he was not a removed and unemotional student of his beloved home but a passionately interested person so full of heart it was inspiring. Our tour in Chiapas with you was special in many ways and Patrick was a big part of that. I am sorry to hear of his death and wish all who loved him comfort.

  6. I am shocked and deeply saddened by the loss of Patrick. I was on two tours with him in a one year period: Chiapas and Yucatan. He was brilliant and everyone always commented on his encyclopedic knowledge. I still have the notes I made when I asked him to tell me again the story of the strangler fig which he had first told the group as we walked from the Palenque site. He told the story in such a charming way, and it was indeed the cycle of life. I also treasure his suggestion in February that I read Ciudad Real. I am thankful for his introducing me to everything wonderful about Chiapas. I will miss him and mourn his passing.

  7. Patrick was a larger than life person. You could not be in his presence and not feel his love for and devotion to his people. Strong in heart and body, a source of endless knowledge, charismatic and generous, and a magnetic personality — to know him is never to forget him.
    Healing thoughts to all his family.
    Shelley Burke

  8. I feel so lucky to have had the chance to tootle about the Chiapas countryside with Patrick. He was so central to what our group did, and learned while there. Norma was a terrific tour guide, and a good storyteller herself, but having Patrick by her side added even more depth to what we learned of the loccal indigenous people–a culture he loved so dearly. His devotion to his community and his desire for others to know and love his community was evident throughout the days we spent together. Patrick seemed a spiritual person–hopefully that (and as someone pointed out, dying on the day of his namesake) will carry him forward. Norma, I am so very sorry that you have lost your dear comrade.

  9. Oh no. I am truly stunned to read this and so, so sorry to hear that Patrick has passed away. As everyone has said, he was such a strong and incomparable presence on our wonderful trip to Chiapas in 2018. I learned many things about the Mayan people from him and my memories of Chiapas will always include Patrick’s ability to convey his deep knowledge, love and respect for the Maya. And that fantastic hat.

    • Hi, Anne. Stunning is exactly right. How I felt when I first heard. Incredulous that a man of such integrity and strength could fall so soon. I still can’t believe it. Still say, Oh, Patrick. Still and will mourn this loss in my life. Thank you for sharing the journey.

  10. I traveled with Patrick in 2009 on a tour of Chiapas. His ability to make the history of his country come to life was extraordinary. He was a charmer. When I signed up for a trip to The Yucatán with David Rico and Vagabundos in 2018 I was delighted to see Patrick again. He did not disappoint. I am so sorry to hear of his too early death. He has left a legacy to all who experienced his lively and passionate discourses. We have the responsibility to inform others and help the Mexican people to prosper.

  11. I truly don’t know what to say. I, and the group I was with, only knew him for 10 days. In those 10 days, I learned about him everything that has been written here. The loss is devastating. There are too few people walking the earth who make everything and everyone they touch better. He was one.

  12. To us he conveyed an image of a spiritual elder, full of wisdom and knowledge. He wonderfully shared a love and history of his country, especially Chiapas. We were so very fortunate to travel to Chiapas and have him be part of our trip. We learned so much. This is a terrible loss. We will say prayers for him and his family.
    Mike Langella
    Sandy Aube-Langella

  13. I feel so lucky to have had the chance to tootle about the Chiapas countryside with Patrick. He was so central to what our group did and learned while there. Norma was a terrific tour guide, and a good story-teller herself, but having Patrick by her side added even more depth to what we learned of the local indigenous people—a culture he loved so dearly. His devotion to his community, and his desire for others to know and love his community was evident throughout the days we spent together. He seemed a spiritual person—hopefully that (and, as someone pointed out, dying on the day of his namesake) will carry him forward. Norma, I am so sorry that you have lost your dear comrade.

  14. Patrick’s warmth and his passion for history and culture made our Vagabundos Trip to Chiapas special. He was like a brother to our wonderful tour leader,
    David Rico. I am deeply grateful for his presence, for his generosity of spirit, his brilliance and his joy. As Boisali Biswas said, “…a young, beautiful soul.”

  15. Patrick was so young and vital. He was indeed a marvelous man; brimming with knowledge on everything from social justice issues to flora and fauna not to mention anthropology and archeology. He demonstrated a wonderful warmth and empathy for the Lacondon people. I had the honour of being on two trips with him to Chiapas and Yucatan. He is a great loss to the world of the Mayan civilization education. My sincerest condolences to his family.

  16. How shocking that such a vibrant soul has died. On our trip with him I took copious notes as he was a font of knowledge and history of Chiapas and the amazing culture. He was unforgettable!

  17. The real “ Indiana Jones”…an excellent tour guide…a better person. He will be missed.

  18. Patrick made our recent trip to Chiapas one of discovery as he shared his deep knowledge of the indigenous people. Our group, Los Amigos del Arte Popular, seeks to support native artisans. Patrick added the important dimension of learning about the struggle that culture has endured. He was a warm and caring man.

  19. We in San Miguel are devastated at the loss of Patrick. Having traveled with him twice over the years, it was fun to see him two years ago on my last trip to Chiapas. Over the previous years, we had contact many times as I sent him many people who wanted to see the “real” Chiapas and no one could explain and show the peoples, the traditions and the history of his state then Patrick. The shock of his loss is very deep. However, he is in the afterlife and passed on the saint’s day of his birth name! How intriguing is that?

  20. http://shukocl.com/2019-03-19_ephemeral/
    This is from me to Patrick…. too sad… I have a video that he explained to us about a ceramic. His voices makes me not believed that he passed away. I’m so sorry Norma

  21. I am stunned that this healthy man should pass way too soon. Our group spent five days with Patrick in early March, probably ending the day before he had the surgery. We loved Patrick’s deep knowledge of Mayan culture, the Spanish influences, and modern politics, including the Zapatista movement. He spoke of all life with huge understanding and reverence. He was a true Humanist. His loss is huge. His passionate and deep reservoir of knowledge and stunning perspective have resonated with me for weeks. I cannot help but be angry if the loss of such a vital and sensitive man was due to thrown clots resulting from the March 5 surgery because he didn’t stay low for a reasonable time. Life is such a gift and Patrick lived it very well. I had hopes that he might consider politics somehow, beyond his tremendous influence through guiding. Here’s a toast to that remarkable man!!

  22. Deeply sadden to hear of Patrick’s passing. I also experienced him as an exceptional guide through out the San Cristobal area giving me great insight into the various Chiapas cultures. His personal story, humanitarian caring and knowledge and willingness to share the extra is what made my Chiapas trip so memorable. May his journey continue in another diminision. Raven

  23. My brother Patrick was very much loved by everyone who met him. He had a story to tell every person he came across. We will miss his presense very much, although he’ll coninue to live in our hearts.

    • Dear Roberto, thank you very much for commenting. I am deeply connected to Patrick and he is a part of me. I am so sorry, so sad, so distraught. He will always be with me. Many of my friends who also knew him ask if they can make a donation or gift in his honor and memory. Will there be a fund or scholarship in San cristobal names for Patrick? How can we donate? What help can we give?

    • Roberto, sentimos mucho tu pérdida ! Fuimos el grupo que Patrick atendió la semana pasada nos despedimos de el el sábado a las 4pm., pasamos unos días muy bonitos en su compañía, aprendimos muchísimo! Me llamó mucho la atención que te mencionaba siempre que hablaba de su vida y su niñez, eras su Parner in crime creo yo. Un abrazo grande a toda su familia con mucho cariño del grupo de Chihuahua! Un honor haber coincidido con el en sus últimos días! DEP!

  24. Oh my, I’m schocked at this news! Just finished a tour with Patrick last Sunday March 10, 2019. His knowledge and life had been so rich. I admired his dedication and support of the Mayan people. Loved that he was opinionated and spoke his truth. He served the Mayan in his continuous teaching on each tour he led. He left a large impression on me with his knowledge and respect of what was worthy in life. Too soon a loss for us perhaps the right time for what we don’t know.

    • Yes, to everything you say, Patti.

    • Patti, I thought about your message again. Patrick took you out on Sunday, March 10. His surgery was Tuesday, March 5. He should have scheduled a week or two of rest with his legs elevated and wearing support hose to keep from clotting. I don’t know what kind of medical advice he got or who was looking after or advising him. Was he given blood thinning medication — standard procedure in the USA? He never should have been out working so soon. Heart attacks happen when the body throws a blood clot after surgery. It’s not your fault. It’s what happened that never should have.

  25. Estoy sorprendida por el sensible fallecimiento de Patrick Murphy, es una pena que se haya ido antes que nosotros, espero este gozando de la Luz eterna y la presencia de Su Sra. Madre Doña Luz, de sus tíos Don Samuel y José Ruiz Garcia, elevó mis oraciones para que padre, sus hijos,esposa, hermanos encuentren consuelo ante esta perdida! Les envío mis más sinceras condolencias!

  26. This is such sad news. I’m so glad to have known him and learned from him on our recent Chiapas trip. He was a wonderful storyteller and truly made me feel that I gained some understanding of Mayan history and culture. He will be missed by many.
    Gail G.

  27. I was shocked to hear of our Chiapas guide Patrick Murphy Ruiz’s sudden death this week. He was an incredible guide with a lifetimes wealth of information and stories about Mayan culture in the past and present. He was entertaining, proud, gentle and quite endearing, and I am honored to have had the chance to spend a little time with him. His path on this earth, among us, was far to short. May your spirit be free out into the expanding universe!

  28. We are shocked and deeply saddened about the way-too-early passing of
    this wonderful man. Patrick, for the 28 years we have lived in San
    Cristobal, was easily and always our first choice for guiding – and educating –
    our many guests, as well as close friends and family members when they visited.
    Our sincere condolences go out to Barbara, Roberto and Patrick.’s
    other relatives.
    Nancy and David Orr

  29. Dear Norma, Thank you for letting me know about the unexpected death of Patrick Murphy. I appreciated having him accompany our group, and learned so much about the culture and history through his talks and explanations. He was eager to help others learn about and better understand the Maya in Chiapas. Everywhere we went with him, local people greeted him warmly and embraced him. He will surely be missed. If you know about a particular cause that Patrick supported, please let me know how I might make a contribution in his memory.

  30. This is a horrible loss of a beautiful man. I learned so much from Patrick on our Chiapas tour. His perspectives on the mystery of the Mayan traditions meshing with Catholicism and historical perspectives on how the Zapatistas helped the Indigenous peoples were invaluable.My heart goes out to his family.

  31. I met him also and was so impressed. I called him the Chiapas John Trudell. His passion was visible, his talk to our group left me in tears of sympathy and greater understanding. This is a very sad loss. I am glad I got to meet him once and to know of him.
    Laurel

  32. Michael John Schroeder

    Very beautifully stated, Norma. We only had a brief time to be informed by Patrick’s knowledge and compassion towards Chiapas and its people, but he created such a wonderful picture that I will never forget the experience. I cannot believe that he is gone. Chiapas will not be as welcoming a place without his presence. May he rest in peace. We will have to come welcome him back on Day of the Dead in the way he so vividly described to us.

  33. Tears in my eyes as I light a candle for Patrick.
    What a calm, giving presence in the bus last year! I remember the pride in his voice as he explained what his ancestors had accomplished in decades past.
    His directed, open communication to “the group” but also to the artisans we visited. And finally, his honesty in describing his personal, family issues which allowed all of us to remember the ones we left behind through the years or just for the duration of the trip.
    Lanita

  34. OMG that is a shock Norma! He was such a ‘presence’ and a very present and compassionate person. When we parted on the last day he worked with us…he said “See you around Sheri!” …referring to the previous year when I ran into him on the street of San Cristobal where he often did ‘walking tours’. That day he gave me a big hug like I was a long-lost (pox) sister and that will continue as a sweet memory.
    I think he figured I was OK as a co-guide when I shared pox with him out in Aldama and in the back room at the Tenejapa textile coop (Maria Meza has some mellow ‘ladies’ pox’ back there!) That I wasn’t a wimpy gringa with ‘drink’ phobias. Anyway he was the real-deal Coleto cowboy and I will certainly miss him as he added so much authenticity to the tours!

  35. I am stunned and so sad to read this, Norma. Patrick enriched our Chiapas tour enormously with his cultural and historical information and insights – and best of all his personal stories. He joined Gayle, Gail, and me for a stretch of our wandering along the Tenejapa market stalls, sharing boiled peanuts, answering our questions, interacting with the vendors — always alert, upbeat, sensitive, informative, and fun. His passing is a great loss. Condolences to his family (he spoke proudly to us of his son and daughter) and to all who knew and loved him.

  36. Norma – This is the saddest news. My husband and I spent two days with Patrick in Chiapas last September (you gave us his name). We had an amazing experience with him – and he is just as you described. He was a huge-hearted naturalist – political, deep, spiritual, irreverent, fascinating, funny, and so knowledgeable. Patrick and my husband talked politics non-stop for two days. I bounced along in the back seat of his car listening to the two of them talking and to Patrick’s stories as we drove the back roads of his part of Chiapas to beautiful places and remote out of the way places that were only accessible to us because we were with him. We learned about Patrick’s personal history and about his Uncle the Bishop and so much more about the Zapatista movement and Chiapas and on and on. He was an original and there will never be another like him. I am so sad that he is no longer on this earth and I know that we were so fortunate to have had those days with him. My heart goes out to his family – his partner and his two kids who he spoke about at length.

  37. Carolyn Horne Kolconay

    I am so sad to hear this. We met him in Chiapas two years ago and were absorbed in his stories and knowledge of the Zapatistas and history of the area. I still have notes from his talks on the bus. He died much too soon. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

  38. I did not personally know Patrick but your story is so moving, I sincerely wish I had made contact with him. I am holding him in the Light.

  39. Oh, Norma, I am shocked and so sad to hear of the death of Patrick. Such a sad loss to everyone who knew him – to the people for whom he advocated, and to his family, especially his charming son. Your tribute to him is beautiful and so true! How I wish I had known him better, but how grateful I am to have known him at all, even for 2 short weeks on tour in Chiapas. Thank you for the opportunity to have known Patrick, who will live large in my heart and in my memory.

  40. Oh Norma, I’m just shocked and devastated. Having just spent the week traveling with Patrick and witnessing his love and deep respect for the people of Chiapas. He was joy filled and generously shared his knowledge. I have so many lovely memories of Patrick but I remember walking the market in Tenejapa with him and trying the amazing roasted peanuts at his urging. We talked in depth about birding. He gave me his business card and I had planned to return and take a birding trip with him as my guide to Bonampak and Yaxchilan. My heart is broken with this news. He has left this earth much too soon.

  41. My favorite memory of Patrick was when he and I took a group of my students to Palenque. My students were in love with him. He was late joining us after breakfast and one of my students commented, I bet he comes in here swinging from a vine! Just an hour later, Patrick did indeed swing from a vine in Palenque, and taught us all the trick! He was awesome…. his love of Chiapas, its indigenous people, its natural beauty, will stay with us forever.

  42. How devastating for Chiapas’ people. In just a few days I could see what a humble human being he was. Last conversation with him was his being so happy because he received a hand full of gold at one of the artesanos homes- opens his palms to show corn in all colors planted in the village -we smiled knowingly.

  43. Lighting a candle for him: may his passage go gently. I am deeply appreciative of having experienced him as our sensitive, knowledgeable guide on my tour of Chiapus in April 2015. The memory that stands out the clearest is when we arrived on the hillside outside Chamula, where he explained the history and culture of this town and guided us on how we were to act respectfully when we entered the church on the square. Being in that church was a profound experience for me. I also appreciated how he included his personal history growing up in Mexico and what he learned from his uncle, the Bishop. There are a few people who stand out in your life, whom you’ve met for a short time, but who have last in your memory as special beings. He is one of them. May his family be comforted.

  44. Catherine Ljungquist

    I feel a tremendous loss for his family, for Chiapas & for those who never met Patrick. I feel quite honored to have been on a tour with him.
    I was greatful for his knowledge as well as his gracious personality.
    He seemed to “never meet a stranger”. He is missed.

  45. So sorry to hear about the passing of such a young, beautiful soul Norma! We don’t know what life brings us each day 🙁 My sincere condolences! Love ~ Boisali

  46. Patrick was a dear friend, I took groups to Chiapas since the year 2000, he was knowledgable, and totally enloved with his work, and was one with the indigeneous people of whom he cared so much. He will be
    Missed. Wil always remember you.

  47. So sorry for the loss of this exceptional human being, and your dear friend, Norma

  48. Sorry for the loss of your friend Norma. He sounds like a one of a kind!

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